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As the UK oscillates between varying degrees of enforced social confinement, a frequently asked question is “what made ‘lockdown’ bearable for you?” Some people are fortunate enough to be able to give answers such as cooking, exercise, friends, and family. Sadly however, there is compelling evidence that those who struggled the most during this time were already the most vulnerable. This highlights that one of the many cruel effects of Covid 19 has been the exacerbation of existing societal inequalities. Whilst it is unclear whether the virus discriminates between people, it is clear that the repercussions of the restrictions it has necessitated certainly do.
Prior to the pandemic there were many existing challenges when it came to supporting the most vulnerable members of our society, especially with regard to the provision of homes which are fit for purpose and meet peoples’ individual needs. These challenges were thrust into the spotlight by Covid 19, as the government implemented emergency short term measures, in order to house and protect some of those most at risk such as the homeless, asylum seekers, people with mental health issues and physical disabilities.
This is an issue that can be related to the concept of the pyramid of human needs, as outlined by Abraham Maslow in his paper on ‘A Theory of Human Motivation’. At the base of the pyramid, are the basic human requirements such as food, shelter, security and rest; in the middle are the psychological needs such as friendship and love; while self-esteem and the pursuit of self-fulfilment occupy the uppermost section. The essential message of the pyramid analogy is to demonstrate that without the lowest elements in place, there is no hope of attaining those on the higher levels – those ‘luxuries’ that can lead to human happiness. Clearly many of the things that enabled some people to navigate lockdown – cooking, exercise, friends, and family – are contingent on the basic human needs that many of us may take for granted: needs such as food, shelter, and security. Quarantine may have been tough, but at least it could take place in somewhere we call home.
A secure, fit-for-purpose home needs to be in place in order for people to have a chance of tackling the challenges thrown up by their day to day lives. It allows people to focus on other important areas of self-fulfilment and self-development, such as their health, work, family and education. The fact that housing and mental health in the UK are both separately and frequently described as being in ‘crisis’ is no coincidence. As the charity Mind points out, the two states are symbiotic: poor mental health can make it harder to cope with housing problems, just as housing problems can make mental health worse. It is amongst the deadliest of society’s vicious circles.
Due to the pandemic, the UK is now facing rising unemployment, salary cuts, and a creaking dam of eviction notices (eviction hearings resumed in England and Wales from 21st September 2020), all against the backdrop of a ballooning budget deficit. The combined impact of these socio-economic forces will be a huge need for new, bespoke homes to accommodate the growing number of vulnerable people in our community, all at a time when public funding is going to be least able to afford it. This is not a new problem, but one that has been magnified by Covid 19. According to the National House-Building Council 161,022 homes were registered in 2019, 53% of the governments stated annual target of 300,000. These housebuilding targets in 2020 are likely to have been severely impeded by the construction industry slow down due to the pandemic.
Through our social and affordable housing investment strategy we are aiming to make a difference by addressing the UK’s housing shortfall. We have set ourselves the ambitious goal of providing 10,000 homes over the next five years. We want to provide these homes for the people in society who need them most, and at a time when society is in desperate need of assistance.
Our homes aim to be of the best quality – well-built, energy efficient, clean, safe and adapted for their residents. The creation of this new accommodation will provide more affordable alternatives both to the people in need of it and to local authorities, thereby saving the government money and, crucially, delivering better, healthier outcomes for the vulnerable in society. The positive social impact of this will be long-lasting and significant: security of tenure enables increased independence, which in turn gives people the boost to reintegrate themselves into the communities that need them too. In this way an investment in housing also allows investors to make a positive social impact while generating steady and sustainable, long term income.
The true value of having a place to call home is as immeasurable as the devastating cost of not having one. What is clear however, is that having a place to call home can act as an essential building block for the attainment of self-fulfilment, societal integration and well-being, a cause we believe is well worth supporting.
This article was written by Triple Point’s Ali Precious